Water has the power to relax the body and soothe the mind. When household chores and work pressure weigh you down, turn to this list of water therapies from around the world that promise holistic rejuvenation. By Snigdha Bhowmick
I have always enjoyed my time in water. Although I did not learn how to swim, it never stopped me from frolicking around in pools, lakes, or even oceans as a child. And this always earned me reprimands from my mother. Today, years later, I take to the water to heal myself. Poonam Saha, manager of the spa at The Leela Palace New Delhi, once told me how different therapies offer distinct advantages. “Geothermal spas and baths, for example, detoxify and smoothen the skin, while reducing muscle ache and joint stiffness, and eliminating toxins.” This got me thinking, and I set out to look for other water therapies that can help one replenish and rejuvenate one’s mind and body.
Māori Magic in New Zealand
The acidic baths deep inside the Māori territory in Rotorua, New Zealand, are just as unique as the region. The hot springs here, known as waiariki, are considered a blessing of the gods. At Polynesian Spa, the therapeutic waters in the 28 hot pools come from two different natural springs. These slightly acidic waters not only act as a balm for aching joints but also replenish energy. Established in 1972, this spa has now become famous for its bubbling mud pools and hissing fumaroles. Although apprehensive at ﬁrst, I decide to try one of their mud therapies. Rich in minerals and silica, this treatment helps revitalise the skin and boost immunity. I lather up and slip into the warm water. It’s oddly comforting as the cool mud insulates my body against the heat, while I gaze at the rugged mountainous terrain in front of me.
GETTING THERE: The nearest airport is Rotorua Airport, which is a two-hour flight from Auckland. Cathay Pacific offers connecting flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Auckland. PRICE: Starts at INR 3,000.
Dead Sea Therapy In Jordan
For those drawn to mud-based therapies, the Dead Sea in Jordan should be on the bucket list. Its mineral-rich, hyper-saline water offers unparalleled health and beauty beneﬁts. As it is located nearly 420 metres below sea level—it is the lowest water body on Earth’s surface—harmful UVB rays are scattered before reaching the water, thus making it one of the safest sunbathing venues on the planet. Apply some of the silicate- and phosphate-rich mud, and ﬂoat on the lake. Since the water is eight times more saline than the ocean, there’s no chance of sinking. Instead, you’ll bob around like a piece of cork! The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea has a private beach that allows you to make the most of the experience— breathe in the clean air to unclog blocked sinuses.
GETTING THERE: Gulf Air operates flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan.
PRICE: Around INR 6,000 for day tours; private tours from INR 15,000.
The Onsens Of Japan
I’m reminded of an episode of Animal Planet where hundreds of snow monkeys take a dip in hot geothermal waters and wear a look of absolute bliss on their faces as steam rises up around them. As I pursue their sense of relief, I find out that the Land of the Rising Sun has similar activities for humans. Known as onsens, Japanese baths tap into the volcanic waters that crater this land and offer a smorgasbord of baths, each with unique characteristics. One of the best places to enjoy an onsen soak is a ryokan in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido. Loosely translating to ‘inn’, a ryokan is a traditional Japanese bathhouse offering an experience of tatamimatted rooms, communal baths, and scrumptious Japanese food. Noboribetsu is a small town dotted with hotels, some of which have up to 20 different hot spring baths. Spend a couple of days here to take in the sights of Jigokudani (Hell Valley), while taking multiple dips in the all-day baths. You can choose the type of treatment you want: the alkaline baths smoothen skin while the sodium-rich baths keep your body warm. But my favourites are the classic sulphur pools that cure skin diseases. As I slip into these milky waters multiple times over my two-night stay, the warmth and serene environs ensure a deep slumber.
GETTING THERE: Japan Airlines flies from Delhi to Sapporo via Tokyo. From Sapporo, Noboribetsu is 1.5 hours by road.
PRICE: Starts at INR 5,000.
A Steamy Affair in the USA
Colorado’s bubbling hot geothermal waters are harnessed as steam. At Yampah Spa & Salon in Glenwood Springs, vapour caves create natural steam baths. Members of the Ute tribe, the oldest residents of Colorado, used to partake in rituals and therapies in these caves. They called it the ‘big medicine’ or yampah. Today, the mineral-rich water of the Glenwood Springs seeps in through the walls of the caves and ﬁlls three dimly-lit underground chambers, which can be easily accessed by visitors. Sit on marble benches and let the hot steam—loaded with sulphites, nitrates, and zinc—do its job. As the waters reach up to 45°C inside, it is advised to step out every few minutes for some cool mountain air.
GETTING THERE: Air India flies from Mumbai and Delhi to Chicago, from where you can catch a train to Glenwood Springs.
PRICE: INR 1,028 for a day pass.
The Royal Baths Of Istanbul
If you want to bathe like a sultan, head to the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, which boasts walls trimmed with gold and bedecked bathing bowls. This luxurious way of bathing dates back to the 15th-century Ottoman Empire and stands out from the Roman style by using cold chambers to relax at the end of the bathing ritual. A typical hammam consists of three interconnecting rooms. I start my ritual in the sicaklik, a hot room with a large heated marble slab known as göbek taşı, while the large glass-domed ceiling lets the sunlight in, to create an ethereal ambience. All around me, a sea of Marmara marble is broken by the gold trimmings of bowls and an impeccably polished wooden staircase. I’m provided with a pestemal (a silk and cotton wrap), which I wrap around me before lying down on the warm marble and pouring warm water over myself. An assistant scrubs me from head to toe with a kese (a goatskin exfoliating mitt). Next, they squeeze out tiny soap bubbles from a special cloth for the köpük—a long, dreamy bubble wash. I ﬁnally end my ritual with a cup of ﬁery red Turkish tea in the soğukluk, or the cold room, and feel the weariness of a crazy shopping trip through the Grand Bazaar undertaken earlier slowly melt away.
GETTING THERE: Istanbul Atatürk International Airport is well connected to India’s major cities. Turkish Airlines offers non-stop flights from Mumbai and Delhi.
PRICE: INR990 for entry and INR 1,490 for a basic spa package; premium package from INR 6,098.
Although most countries have spas and springs surrounded by beautiful landscapes, one destination trumps them all: Iceland. At the Blue Lagoon Spa in Grindavik, about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Reykjavik, the blue of the water merges seamlessly with the chalky white of the horizon. Put on algae face mask to rehydrate and take in the austere beauty of nature as you immerse yourself in algae-rich baths. If you time your visit correctly, you might even get to see the Northern Lights.
GETTING THERE: Air India offers connecting flights from Delhi to Keflavík International Airport, 20 minutes from Grindavik.
PRICE: INR 3,118 for entry; spa packages from INR 5,184.